How to Format a Resume So that Recruiters Will Read It

How to Format a Resume

While I am not an HR expert by any definition, I have amassed what I think is a pretty decent amount of knowledge about how to format a resume. I have the 12 years of experience in the prepress side of the educational publishing industry to thank for that. So, I decided to put together a series of resume writing tips, starting with this post on basic formatting. If you find it at all useful, please leave me a comment! 🙂

Font Consistency: Don’t use more than two fonts (three at the most, if you just have a burning need for more fonts) and only use standard fonts such as Verdana, Times New Roman, Calibri, or Arial. They are clean fonts that make your resume easier to read. There are other clean fonts you can use, but those are my personal favorites.

Font Size: The standard size for fonts is 11 point. You can use 10 point, but don’t go any smaller because anything smaller than 10 point is hard to read. Can you imagine trying to get through a pile of resumes with 8 point type? No thanks!

Tables: Don’t use tables in your resume. Often, recruiters will need to reformat your resume before sending it to their client, because the clients often have strict formatting requirements. If anyone who has ever had to reformat anything where tables are concerned, you know how tedious it can be.

Bulleted Lists: Do not write long paragraphs of your qualifications. Recruiters don’t have a lot of time to read through the stacks of resumes they get on a daily basis, so use quick, action-oriented bulleted lists instead. Also, be consistent in the bullet shape and size, and only use one level of bullets. It is a resume, not an outline.

Graphics: Unless you are a graphic artist or web designer, don’t use graphics or designer stationery on your resume. It can also present reformatting problems for a recruiter.

Alignment: Centering your entire resume is a no-no. It can make it difficult to read. Centering your contact information at the top is fine, but leave it at that.

Length: There is a common misconception that your resume should only be one page. That can lead to a lot of the formatting issues I’ve already mentioned, such as tiny fonts. If your work history spans 10 years, don’t be scared if your resume goes to two pages. With that said, do try to keep it to two pages. The shorter the resume, the better.

What do you think? Do you have any other tips on how to format a resume? Share in the comments!

P.S. If you’re looking for a great book about resume writing, check out Knock ’em Dead Resumes: A Killer Resume Gets More Job Interviews!. I have used older editions in the past, and I think they definitely helped me land interviews, back when I was in the corporate world. Good luck!